Southern Churches supporting Northern ministry at Simonhouse Bible Camp

It’s been a hard-hitting few years for summer camps and Simonhouse Bible Camp is no exception, but with the help of some of our MB churches they are getting ready to dive into summer programs in 2023.

Simonhouse had to cancel their programs in 2020 and 2021 because of covid restrictions and had hoped to reopen this summer with restrictions lifted, but the stall in programs have left them short-staffed and in need of repairs on the facilities.

“We run a very intentional mentorship model,” explained Simonhouse Executive Director, Darrell Janzen. “but having lost three summers of programming, a lot of our core staff have aged out or moved on to careers.”

It’s not what Janzen expected this summer to look like but the remaining staff are working hard to make the most of this time.

Unusually high waters and strong winds destroyed the waterfront and both camp docks so cleaning that area and rebuilding docks was a big focus this summer.

 

A group from La Salle Community Fellowship made the trip up north to Simonhouse to rebuild one of these docks, bringing their own cut and milled cedar to get the job done.

“It was a huge task and a tremendous amount of lumber that went into that,” said Janzen.

*Dale Warkentine, from Friends Community Church in Carmen, leads a group every year to help with similar tasks at the camp. Their group even brings a mechanic to address more complicated issues.

Another group from Fort Garry MB Church spent a week at the camp helping with a list of tasks around the camp including clearing brush and fallen trees, splitting firewood, giving some of the buildings a fresh coat of paint, and repairing a chimney.

 

“Having these groups come out has made me feel a lot more comfortable that we’re in a good place,” said Darrell. “We’ve addressed the major things, the biggest needs, and I’m quite pleased with that.”

Jesse Yoder led this group and said, aside from getting to help the camp, it was a unique opportunity to bring an intergenerational group together to connect and serve.

“It really felt like spending that week together up in the middle of nowhere, so detached from the comforts we enjoy at home, was bonding us as a group.” said Yoder. “Seeing how working together and serving together helped us build and grow those connections was amazing.”

 

Owen Peters, a 15 year old from FGMB, was one of those that joined the service trip. He had heard about Simonhouse through a youth leader at the church and was considering working there this summer before the programs were cancelled.

“The work trip was a really good way to get familiar with the camp and get to know the people there,” said Peters. “I felt like, yeah this is for me. I enjoyed it and would like to spend more time up there.”

He enjoyed the experience so much he is heading back to Simonhouse for a Discipleship week the camp is putting on for past and potential staff. The week will be an adapted version of their annual staff training.

“This week is focused on personal growth, understanding the ministry we do, taking part in fun team building activities, and then also doing a little bit of work around the camp.” said Janzen.

Peters is excited to meet other people who might be working at Simonhouse next summer, as well as getting a more in-depth understanding of what it will look like to work there for a full summer.

“The ministry at Simonhouse is really important,” stressed Yoder. “There are lots of good camps and ministries but what happens at Simonhouse is different. It’s a cool ministry of helping people walk through really messy things in life and asking ‘how does faith look here?’”

Simonhouse is situated eight hours north of Winnipeg in a remote area so the camp services a lot of kids and communities that have never heard of Jesus and have no faith background. A high percentage of the campers come from foster care and other difficult life paths.

“Working here definitely has its challenges but it’s those challenges that staff feel are most rewarding and like they are doing something important.” said Janzen.

It’s crucial that every person has the opportunity to know and be known by Jesus. This is the work that Simonhouse Bible Camp is doing here in Manitoba and we encourage our churches to support the mission of this camp however possible.

“I hope sharing this story with other churches in the conference increases interest in support for Simonhouse,” said Yoder. “Whether that’s sending young people to work for the summer or sending a group on a service trip like this one.”

If you are interested in getting involved with the ministry at Simonhouse Bible Camp you can find more information and a contact form on their website.

*This line was added after the original posting of this story. We want to acknowledge there are a number of churches that support Simonhouse and their seasonal improvements that may not be mentioned in this story but are a crucial help to this ministry. Thank you to everyone who has contributed their time, money, energy, and resources to this northern ministry over the years.